Page images

effects of his own free bounty and goodness; and as none of his creatures could be supposed to have any claim upon him, so it was wholly in his option, whether to bestow these blessings at all on mankind or not, and to confer them upon whom, and in whatsoever measure, he pleased. He might have mercy on whom he would have mercy; and there could be no injustice in denying that to fome, which he was not obliged to bestow upon any: That as the potter hath power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vefsel to honour, and another to dishonour; so was the great Creator of the world at liberty, not only to make his creatures of different ranks and orders, and to endue them with different talents and capacities, but even, of the same race and order of beings, to raise fome to higher degrees of perfection and happiness than others, and to place them in circumstances more or less advantageous, as to his infinite wisdom should seem moft


for answering the wise ends of his providence. He reasons also from analogy, which is the surest guide to man in all his inquiries into the nature of God's moral government; and shows us, that the conduct of Providence, in choosing the Gentiles to be his church and people in the room of the Jews, is exactly conformable to the dispensations of his grace in former ages. He instances in the case of Ifaac, who was the only person, of all the numerous posterity of Abraham, that God chose to be the father of his church, and heir of the promises : As likewise in that of Jacob, who was preferred to the fame honour, in the room of his elder brother Efau, who was the natural heir : and betwixt whose rejection, and that


of the Jews, there was, on this account, the greater resemblance; “ For unto them,” as the Apostle observes,“ pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law,” &c. But the same sensual and worldly disposition which cost Efau his birth-right, proved also the cause of their rejection ; for being more concerned for their temporal welfare than for their eternal happiness, and more ambitious of the riches and honours of this present life than of the joys of a better, they despised their Messiah, because his coming did not answer their carnal and groundless expectations. He likewise vindicates the justice of Providence in rejecting the Jews, from the nature of those fins which brought this judgment upon them; viz. their unbelief and disobedience to the call of the gospel: and certainly it was but reasonable, that they who would not embrace the gospel, when in their offer, should be deprived of its benefits and privileges; that they fhould be rejected from being the people of God, who had rejected the message of his only Son, resisted the testimony of the holy Spirit, and hardened themselves against the most powerful means of conviction. And having vindicated the justice of this dispensation, the Apostle proceeds, in the verse we have now read, and those which follow, to illustrate the wisdom and goodness thereof. He shows us, that the Almighty, in rejecting the Jews, had not acted arbitrarily or without reason, much less from any pleasure he had in their sufferings, nor yet merely from a regard to his authority, or as a punishment upon them for their unbelief and disobedience to the call of the gospel, though it was such as mighty fufficiently justify the

divine conduct towards them ; but chiefly from a view to the good of the rest of mankind, as this gave occasion to the preaching of the gofpel among the Gentiles, and contributed both to the propagation of the Christian religion at first in the world, and was also a means of preserving and maintaining it in after ages. " I say then, Have they stumbled that they “ should fall? God forbid : but through their fall 66 salvation is come to the Gentiles."

In discoursing farther from these words, I propose, through divine assistance, first, To explain the words; and, then, To deduce from them a few observations, one or more of which I shall prosecute as your time will allow.

Firft, I am to explain the words. The design of this verse, as it stands connected with the preceding context, is to prevent a mistake concerning the doctrine there inculcated. The Apostle had asserted, that God intended to caft off the Jews from being his people, and to exclude them from the church of Christ; and, in proof of this, had cited two passages from the Old Testament, where the blindness and infidelity of that people are foretold. But that none might mistake his meaning, as if that blindness was to be perpetual, or to last for ever, he adds, “ I fay " then, Have they stumbled that they should fall :” as if he flad said, i have shown it is the will of God, that the Jews, for their abuse of his mercies, their unbelief and disobedience to the call of the gospel, should be rejected from being his people, and deprived of all the advantages they enjoyed from fo honourable a relation ; that they should be excluded from the church of Christ, and given up to a spirit of blindness


and infidelity; and have endeavoured to vindicate the divine justice, in inflicting this dreadful judgment upon them: but would not be fo understood, as if God intended to leave them in this deplorable state, nor ever more to receive them into his favour. I am persuaded of the contrary, not only from the predictions of the former prophets, who have foretold a glorious restoration to the people of God in the latter days, but also from the testimony of the holy Spirit, who has been graciously pleased to grant me a particular revelation of this, for my own and the church's comfort: viz. That there is a time coming, when the Lord shall bring back the captivity of Israel, and again acknowledge them for his people; when the vail shall be removed from their hearts, in the reading of the scriptures, and their eyes opened, to see the accomplishment of them in the person of our Saviour. It is not therefore the design of Providence to cast off the Jews for ever, but only to exclude them from the church for a time, in order to make way for the conversion of the Gentiles; neither is it to be considered so much as a token of his aversion to the former, as of his love and mercy to the latter. As the wife Governor of the world never acts arbitrarily, or without reafon, in any of his dealings with his creatures, but least of all in the distribution of punishment; so his severity to the Jews is intended for good to the rest of mankind, and hath, in fact, been productive of the greatest blessings to the world in general, as it has been a means of spreading the gospel among the Gentiles, of enlightening the understanding, and reforming the lives of many thousands of mankind formerly funk in superstition and vice, of purifying


[ocr errors][ocr errors]


their hearts by faith, and bringing them, through the knowledge of the truth, to a state of eternal happiness in a better world; which happy effects of the gospel are intended, in the wisdom of God, to be a means of bringing the Jews to repentance, and the acknowledgment of the uth as it is in Christ, by exciting in them a holy e.nulation to see the Gentiles substituted in their stead, and possessed of all those diftinguishing blessings and privileges which they, as the people of God, formerly enjoyed.

From the words thus explained, these obfervations do naturally occur: First, That the fall of the Jews was the rise of the Gentiles; or, That the rejecting of the gospel by the former, was a means of propagating the Christian religion at first in the world, and also of preserving and maintaining it in after ages. Secondly, That this apostasy of the Jews is not final, or to continue for ever ; but, at a time appointed by infinite wisdom, to end in their conversion to the Christian faith, and restoration to their former privileges.

First, I say, The fall of the Jews was the rise of I

the Gentiles : To this end it contributed several ways; M. ift

, As it was that chiefly which gave occasion to the preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles.

The Apostles, having been educated in all the false principles and tenets of the corrupt Jewish church, had, at first, this notion in common with the rest of their countrymen, that the blessings of the Messiah's kingdom belonged only to them, and that the Gentiles were still to be excluded from the church of God. They thought, that the promises made to the Patriarchs extended only to their posterity, or natural offspring; and as falvation was of the Jews, so they


« EelmineJätka »